|Review by Jan Hanford:|
Once upon a time, before the dogma of "authentic" performance practice took over the classical music industry, talented and dedicated musicians performed Bach's music on today's modern instruments. This recording of the sonatas for viola da gamba and harpsichord performed on cello and piano is from 1985. And thank goodness someone recorded it and it is still in print (as of 2001). It is a lovely recording and presents a truly fresh approach to listening to these sonatas. Yes, I love the recordings I own performed on viola da gamba and harpsichord or, interestingly, tangent piano. This is not a criticism of those recordings. But I am not of the "there's only one way" school of performance, I like all of them.
This performance revealed details in the music I never heard before. Harpsichord is very crispy, with a sharp attack, and I feel the sound can interfere with some of the details of the viola da gamba lines. The similar timbres of the cello and piano actually made it easier for me to pick out the separate parts and enjoy the ingenious interaction between the two.
This performance was also very rewarding. Maisky's cello playing is lively and often moving. It is surprising hearing these sonatas performed with vibrato, since the viola da gamba has no vibrato and I discovered I enjoyed it tremendously. Algerich's performance on piano is also exquisite; light and fluid, recorded not dry but with pleasant ambient echo. I love these sonatas and consider them essential to appreciating Bach's chamber music. If you're not of the "authentic instruments only" club, I highly recommend this recording.